Complementary, or “integrative,” and alternative therapies are not the same thing and should not be confused with each other. Complementary therapies are therapies intended to “go along with, hand in hand” with the traditional therapies we use to treat prostate cancer. Sometimes they are designed to enhance the underlying therapy, but usually they are used to mitigate the negative side effects of traditional therapies. They are supportive measures that enhance your well being by controlling symptoms. Their benefits are usually supported by clinical studies.
For example some of the complementary therapies are used to help control nausea and vomiting are:
- Muscle relaxation with guided imagery
- Chewing on some pieces of ginger or suck ice chips during the infusion
- Using Anti-seasickness (acupressure) wristbands (available in many drug stores)
- Marijuana may soothe nausea. A synthetic version of the active ingredient in it, THC, is in the prescription drug, Marinol (dronabinol).
- Chi-Gong and Tai chi
Using marijuana may help relieve the nausea and pain. However, its use raises serious issues in states where its purchase or use is illegal, regardless of its possible benefits to cancer patients. There may be safety issues as well. Unless the marijuana is grown and prepared in a pharmaceutically controlled environment, there may be contaminants such as mold or fungus. If your immune system has been compromised (which chemotherapy will do) you might not be able to fight infections induced by contaminated marijuana.
Memorial Sloane Kettering Medical Center (MSKCC) in New York City has excellent resources on complementary therapy (they refer to it as “Integrative Medicine) online. Go to: http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/about-herbs-botanicals-other-products
Alternative therapies, on the other hand, promise cures, are often invasive, harmful, and costly. They have not been subjected to the rigors of clinical trials and always lack evidence to back their claims. In short, they are simply voodoo medicine, marketed too often to desperate patients eager for a cure. The real problem is that they delay the use of proven treatments, which allows the cancer to continue to progress while ineffective alternative “cures” are being used.
Remember: as with everything in life, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is not true. “On the fringe” fashionable treatments, especially special diets, come in and out of vogue all the time. None of them cures cancer. Contrary to popular rumor, no person or company has found a way to cure cancer but is keeping it off the market so they can sell more expensive traditional drugs or treatments.